Peshawar is the ‘Gateway to Central Asia’. It was founded over 2000 years by the Kushan Kings of Gandhara and was called ‘Lotus Land’. Thereby from 2nd century AD to 7th century it remained a center of Gandharan civilization and a very significant place of pilgrimage.
Then from the 9th century onwards it saw a downfall. When Marco Polo visited the region in 1275 he recorded “the people of which have a peculiar language. They worship idols; are of dark complexion, have an evil disposition; and are skilled in the art of magic and the invocation of demons, a study to which continuously apply themselves”
However it regained its former glory with the advent of the Mughals in the 16th century, and it was Akbar who named it Peshawar which means ‘The Place at the Frontier.
It has also remained under the rule of the Sikhs and British during the 19th and 20th century.
The Peshawar Heritage Trail Project
Having such a rich historical and cultural background, it is no wonder that Peshawar needs to be promoted once again as tourism has been on the decline for the past decade. To achieve that objective a project had been initiated by the Directorate of Archaeology and Museums. Upon its completion, it was launched by Chief Minister Pervez Khattak on 5th June 2018. The heritage trail seeks to tell the story of the notable landmarks to captivate the visitors. It will begin from Cunningham’s Clock Tower, passing through Bazaar-e-Kalaan as well as Mohallah Sethian and ends at Gor Khatri Archaeological complex. Major features of the project are:
• 80 buildings have been renovated with stunning wooden latticework to give them a traditional appearance.
• An underground gas, electricity and drainage system has been constructed.
• The streets have been decorated with flowers and lights (future plans involve redesigning all the 25 streets along the trail).
Peshawar: History at a Glance
In a series of articles we will take a look at the sites that are along the Peshawar Heritage Trail and as well other must see historical places:
Chowk Yaadgar (Commemoration Square)
Heading west of the androon shehar (interior city), at the end of ‘Jewellers Street’ you will find yourself in ‘Chowk Yaadgar’. In the chowk is a dome shaped monument which was constructed in memoriam of Colonel C Hastings in 1892. Yet in 1969 this monument was destroyed and a tall concrete arc made of white marble about 100 feet high was erected in memory of the 1965 war heroes. This too was demolished in the 1990s and again a dome shaped structure was built. This square has also been used for political and religious activities on national as well as international level.
To the east of the square one will find Cunnigham’s Clock Tower (Ghanta Ghar) which was built in 1900 in honor of the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria (Empress of India). It is named after Sir George Cunningham who was the Governor of the North West Frontier Province at that time and also laid its foundation stone. It stands at 85 feet. It has also been renovated under the heritage trail project.